Introduction to n-Track Studio
For a long time, music recording has been difficult for those without access to professional recording studios. The inability to afford expensive recording hardware has confined many musicians to the world of second-rate equipment, discouraging their ambitions to realize their true musical potential. Once, this was typical, but today, things are changing! Forget private recording studios, expensive equipment and high invoices: with n-Track Studio, having a professional music home recording studio and a comprehensive audio environment has never been easier and more affordable!
n-Track Studio has been designed to bring you a powerful Digital Audio Multitrack Recorder. All you need is a full duplex soundcard, a microphone, some free space on your hard drive, and a bit of imagination: there are no limitations on what you can realize with this program!
Let’s have a look at some of n-Track Studio’s special features:
Working with n-Track Studio is Easy
To start a new song, just record the first track (usually the rhythm track). To record an audio track click the "Record" button. Once you've finished recording the track, click the "Stop" button. Can it be any simpler?
Do it All by Yourself!
Add and record as many tracks as you wish. Forget the track limitations of your old tape multitrack recorder: n-Track Studio can manage as many as thirty tracks on a high-end machine.
Instead of mixing audio tracks together, then playing them, n-Track Studio's mixing process is done "on-the-fly." This way, you can alter the volume and pan settings of individual tracks while listening to your song or even while recording.
Punch-in Recording more...
This feature allows you to start playing a track, then start recording at a specified point by clicking the "Record" button during playback.
Live Input Processing more...
Live input processing allows you to use n-Track Studio as a multi-effect device for your instruments. You can connect an electric guitar to your computer, for example, then use n-Track Studio's effects as virtual guitar pedals.
Non-Destructive Effects more...
As with mixing, effects processing isn’t written on a file, but is calculated "on-the-fly" during playback. This lets you change an effect's parameters and listen to the results in real-time. The program comes bundled with many effects including EQ, Compression, Chorus, Echo, Reverb, Pitch shift, Tremolo and many others, and can also use third-party VST and DirectX (Windows) or AU (Mac) audio plug-ins.
n-Track supports multiple input and output soundcards, or more than one soundcard. This makes it possible to record more than one track at a time and to send the program's output to more than one stereo output. Each output channel has its own master effects section and master volume control.
You can easily create drum and musical loops by concatenating several instances of the same audio file in a track.
n-Track Studio can sync to other programs or external devices using SMPTE/MTC or MIDI Clock sync, acting either as master or slave. AVI, MPEG and Quicktime videos can be played in sync with the song in a dedicated video playback window.
In n-Track Studio, you can automate the envelopes for the volume, pan, send and return settings. This allows you to program fade-ins and fade-outs, crossfade between tracks, boost the volume of a track when there is a solo, and so on.
Mix and Burn to CD more...
Once you're finished recording the whole song, you can mix down all the tracks into a single audio file, then burn it to a CD. You can also use the built-in MP3 encoder to compress the song, then distribute it via the Internet.
Integrated Drum Machine
The built-in n-Track Drums module lets you easily compose drum tracks out of pre-built patterns and great acoustic or electronic drum sounds.
Installing n-Track Studio
Download the installer file from www.ntrack.com, then double-click the downloaded file to start the installation.
- If you're running Windows 7, 8 or Vista, you may have to accept the User Account Control prompt that asks you if you want to authorize the installation of the program
- Follow the Setup instructions to install n-Track Studio software into your computer
- Launch the program by selecting the n-Track Studio icon in the start menu
- Open Start Menu/Control Panel
- Select "Add or remove programs"
- Select n-Track Studio from the list of installed programs
- Click on "Add/Remove"
- Open Start Menu/Control Panel
- Select "Add or remove programs"
- Select n-Track Studio from the list of installed programs
- Click on "Add/Remove"
- Drag the n-Track icon from the Mac Applications folder into the Trash icon in the Dock
Minimum System Requirements
CPU - Windows: Pentium III 700 / Mac: Intel Core Duo
Memory - 512 MB RAM
Soundcard - An audio device that accepts a mic or line input
Operating System - Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Vista x64, Windows 7, Windows 7, 8, 32 & 64 bit, Mac OSX 10.7, 10.8 and 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12
Make sure you’ve got the latest versions of the drivers for all your hardware devices, especially the soundcard. Updating drivers is often the solution to many different problems. You can download updated drivers for your devices from the manufacturers' websites
Activating n-Track Studio
If you still don't have it, you can download n-Track Studio here.
If your computer is connected to the internet, all you need to do to activate your version of n-Track is to click on the Activation command found in the Help menu.
A dialog will open, asking for your ntrack.com login credentials.
Note that if you have not created one yourself, your n-Track account will be automatically created immediately after purchasing the software using your purchase email, and you will find your login details in your purchase confirmation email.
If you can't remember your login password you can recover it here.
Once you login, you'll see a list of the products that you have purchased and that are ready for activation. To activate a product, simply press the Activate button found next to it.
n-Track studio will now be registered with the name and credentials you provided. Having a registered version of n-Track not only unlocks all the software's features but also gives you other benefits as a registered user.
To register n-Track running on a computer with no internet connection, open the Help menu and click on the 'Activation' command while holding down the SHIFT key.
A dialog will open. You'll find an alphanumeric code in the first text-box. This is the security code that you must send us in order to receive your offline activation code.
To receive your activation code, simply login to your n-Track account from any device with an internet connection, and click on 'My purchases'. Copy and paste the security code into the textbox at the bottom of the page, click 'Get activation code' and wait for your activation code to be returned.
Once you receive your offline activation code, copy and paste it to the Offline activation code text box.
Press the 'Activate' button, and wait for the response that will be displayed in the text box on the top of the window.
If something goes wrong and you see an error message, copy and paste the message in the content of an email with subject Offline activation Failed, and send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working with n-Track Studio is easy. The first step is to check if the recording VU meter shows the input signal coming from your microphone or instrument. The VU meter is in the upper left section of the program screen, above the master volume control. If n-Track Studio is receiving an input signal, a green bar will appear in the VU meter. If it doesn’t, make sure that all the cables are connected correctly and that the soundcard is set to record from the correct sources. See setting the recording levels for more info.
Connect a recording source -- like a microphone -- to your soundcard's input jack. To start a new song, just click the "Record" button on the lower toolbar to record the first track (usually the rhythm track). Once you have finished recording, click the "Stop" button. The track you've just recorded will appear on the timeline as a waveform. Select it and adjust the volume and pan settings by moving the sliders on the mixer window (you can do so while listening to the track). Now you are ready to add a new track by clicking on the add track button. Make sure you are ready to play and click the "Record" button again. Alternatively, you can start the playback by pressing the "Play" button and then, during playback, clicking the "Record" button to start recording at the desired point (this is called "punch-in recording"). Tracks can contain more than one audio file, and you can drag and drop waveforms from one track to another. You can also adjust the waveform's offset inside a track by moving the small crosshair icon in the lower left corner of the waveform rectangle.
Once you have finished your song, save it as a .sng file using the Save As command from the File menu (File/Save As). The .sng file that the program creates contains the audio files' names, the mixing settings, the volume envelopes and the effects settings. It does not contain the actual audio data, which will remain stored in the audio files as they were recorded. See types of files used by n-Track Studio for more info on the various file formats used by the program.
Now you may want to mix down all the recorded tracks into a single audio file using the mixdown command. Press Ctrl+R (Cmd+R on a Mac) to mix down the song, or select File/Mixdown Song.
Step by step Tutorial
After you have successfully installed n-Track Studio, you can begin your first project with your new Digital Audio Multitrack Recorder. In this chapter, we will show you how to create a new song from scratch using just your computer, a microphone and n-Track Studio. Although the program is capable of recording two or more (depending on the audio hardware) tracks at the same time, for this tutorial we’ll assume that you’re going to record all the tracks by yourself, one at a time.
Finding initial inspiration
The process of making a song can be carried out in many different ways and following very different steps and criteria. You may already have a melody or a chord sequence in mind, or you may want to start from a beat or a simple instrumental loop and then build your song on top of that.
Although n-Track Studio will support whatever creative workflow you may prefer, it also provides some tools to quickly and effortlessly start laying down the foundations for a song. The Add Pattern function, accesible by pressing the button on the main toolbar, lets you add a drum track, a bass track or a bass+drums track directly into your project, ready for you to jam on or start building your song.
When you select the pattern you want to add from the dropdown menu, n-Track will automatically create a Step Sequencer track with the selected pattern already loaded and ready to play. You can choose from n-Track pattern presets or make your own. You can then edit the patterns, re-arrange them or create new ones.
Using the Step Sequencer
Recording a Demo Song
Prepare your instruments, turn on the computer, launch the program, and connect the mic plug to the soundcard’s mic input connector.
Before you start recording, check if the program is receiving a signal from the microphone. Talk into the microphone and see if the program’s recording level VU meters move.
If they don’t, run the Windows volume control using n-Track Studio's Settings/Soundcard settings/Recording mixer controls menu command. You can also access this control through Windows: in Windows XP and earlier versions, select Start Menu/Programs/Accessories/Entertainment/Volume control. For Windows 7 and Vista, select Start Menu/Control Panel/Hardware and Sound/Manage Audio Devices. On a Mac, click the Apple menu, then select System Preferences/Sound.
Open the recording view (Options/Properties/Recording in Windows; on a Mac, System Preferences/Sound/Input), then check that the mic in is the only input source selected, and that the level is sufficiently high.
Setting the Recoring level
While adjusting the mic input level, check the actual recording level using the n-Track recording VU meter. Sing or play the instrument the mic is going to record at the highest volume you think you will reach during the actual recording, and set the level so that, at the maximum volume, the VU meter will be in the higher red range.
Since we’ve decided that we’re going to record one track at a time, and you’re recording directly from the mic, you’ll want to record mono tracks. To set the recording format to mono, click on the “Settings” button on the recording VU meter and select "Mono" (be sure that the vu-meter size enable you to see this icon, in case it don't, enlarge the vu-meter)
Since you’re recording your first track, there’s no particular need to use headphones, but you will need to use them for the following tracks to avoid feedback caused by the microphone capturing the signal coming out of the speakers.
Now that everything is set up, prepare yourself for recording and press the "Record" button on the lower n-Track toolbar. You’ll see the time indicator showing the recording time coloured in red. Complete the recording and click on the "Stop" button.
Let’s say that you were a little nervous about your first n-Track recording and the track didn’t come out right. No problem: just double-click the recorded waveform, then click the "Remove" icon in the popup window that opens. The program will ask you what you want to do with the recorded file. The safest option to select is "Recycle Bin." This sends the file to the system recycle bin, so that you’ll be able to retrieve it later if you realize that you erroneously removed a good file.
Let’s say that you record the track again, and this time everything goes well. You listen to it by clicking on the playback button on the toolbar, and it sounds fine.
It is now a good time to save your work. By default, n-Track names the audio files that you record like this: “name_of_the_song_X.wav” (where X is a number). Since the default name of a project is “New song,” the WAV file you’ve just recorded will be named “New_song_1.wav”.
It's always a good thing to use a file name that is logically related to what the file is actually about, so we’ll now rename this file. Supposing that it is an acoustic guitar track, rename the file to "DemoSong_Ac_Guitar1.wav" using the Track/Rename-Copy wave file command. Type the new name into the "To" text box and click "OK." Notice that the name of the track, as shown in the upper part of the track’s mixer section, will not change: since a track can contain more than one file, the name of a track is not related to the name of its audio files. You can change a track name by right-click the track’s waveform in the timeline window, selecting "Properties" from the pop-up menu and typing a new name into the "Track name" box.
Save the whole project, using the Save as command from the File menu, to the file “DemoSong.sng”. The .sng project file will contain all the song settings, links to audio files, effects, etc., but not the actual audio data, which remains stored in the audio files that the .sng file points to, like the “DemoSong_Ac_Guitar1.wav” we previously recorded.
Let’s now record the second track. If you changed instruments, you’ll need to check the recording level again to be sure it’s correct. If you’re using headphones, you may also need to check if the audio being played back (i.e. the first track) is at a volume similar to that of the signal that you’re recording. This will allow you to play along with the recorded music while also hearing what you play through the headphones.
Setting up these levels properly may be a bit tricky with some soundcards: on certain soundcards, the recording level for the input source which is controlled by the slider in the recording view of the volume control/sound control panel, is not independent from the level of the input monitoring (the level in the playback view of the volume control/sound control panel). This means that you may not be able to move the mic monitor slider without altering the recording level. You can instead move the WAV out (playback) or master volume slider to match the playback volume to the volume of the microphone monitoring.
Once you’re ready, click at the point in the timeline at which you want to start recording the second track, then click the "Record" button. Record the audio for the second track, then click "Stop" when you're finished
The most common problem at this stage is the so-called “bleeding” of the first track into the second track. If the soundcard mixer is not properly set up, the newly recorded track will re-record existing tracks, thus destroying the isolation between the tracks. To check if this is happening, just play back the tracks together and solo the second track by clicking on the S button on the track’s mixer section. If you still can hear the first track with the solo button pressed, your tracks are bleeding: see the Setting the recording levels section for instructions on how to solve this problem.
Re-Recording Portions of a Track
Now that we’ve added a bit of punch to the vocal track, we’re ready for the third track: a couple of electric guitar solos, one in the middle of the song and one near the end. Record the third track as you did the other two.
Let’s say that the first guitar solo goes well, but the second doesn’t come out right. Since the first solo was OK, you don’t want to re-record the whole track, but you want to overdub the second solo.
Click on the button on the left side of track 3, then select MME: Microsoft Sound Mapper – Right Channel (or the name of your input soundcard channel if your configuration is not the default).
Alternatively, you can click on the button on the recording VU meter, then select "Record to track 3" from the drop-down list.
Now click on the timeline at a point some seconds before the start of the 2nd solo, then click on the "Record" button. Once finished, you’ll notice that a new part appears on the timeline, just after the first solo audio file. In fact, when the program overdubs a track, it doesn’t modify the actual audio files: it just records another WAV file with the new material and adds it in the correct place in the timeline. This is called non-destructive overdubbing, as the original audio file is left unmodified.
The new recording is placed into a new Take; both the old and the new takes will appear stacked on top of each other. You can switch between the old and the new takes simply by clicking on the waveform of the take you want the track to play. Read more in the Take Lanes section.
Since we were doing this just to check what had happened, we want to restore the parts exactly as they were after the overdub. To revert the song to the previous state, click two times on the undo button on the toolbar.
n-Track can also automate the process of recording takes of a portion of the song using punch-in multiple takes recording.
Adding Effects and "Tweaking" a Track
Now that the solos are OK, you may want to add a little EQ to the guitar track, and maybe also a bit of delay. Since other tracks may need to use this delay as well, put it on the first aux channel. Be sure that the aux channels are showed (click on the "select tracks to view" icon then "Show Aux channels")
Click the button in the guitar track's mixer section. When you hover the mouse over this button, “Add new send” appears. n-Track will add a new aux channel to the mixer and a send section at the bottom of the guitar track's mixer strip.
Right-click on the mixer window, then enable both the Show Master Channels and Show Aux Channels items. Right-click the mixer again, then enable the Horizontal Masters & Auxs item in the Layout submenu.
Move the mouse cursor over the black box underneath the Aux 1 mixer strip, then click the "+" sign. Double-click "n-Track" in the pop-up menu, then select n-Track Echo from the list of available effects.
The plug-in will now be applied on the first aux channel. To hear it applied to the 3rd track, you’ll need to send this track to the aux channel. Adjust the track send volume slider to vary the amount of signal sent from the track to the aux channel.
During playback, you’ll notice that the aux channel’s VU meter will start to move, but you still won’t be able to hear the effect of the delay. To make the aux channel's signal appear on the output, you’ll need to move the aux channel’s return slider, which is located directly underneath the master channel’s effect list. Once you’ve set it to an adequate level, you should be able to hear the delayed signal.
The Send mechanism is very flexible: y track or group channel can be sent to any other channel, allowing for complex and creative signal routing. To change the output of a channel’s send, click on the label at the bottom of the channel’s send section (the one that by default shows Aux 1 after the send is created).
Let's assume that all went well and the tracks have been correctly recorded. Now you notice that the vocal track level is a bit too low in some places and too loud in others. More often than not, vocal tracks need a bit of compression. Use the n-Track Compressor plug-in that comes bundled with n-Track Studio to flatten out the vocal's dynamics, making the quiet parts louder and the loud sections quieter.
Software effects processing via plug-ins is one of the most powerful features of software-based multitrack recording in ge eral and of n-Track in particular. Effects plug-ins can be added from the effects browser (choose "compressor").
Effects processing is always performed in real-time, so you can tweak the plug-in settings while listening to the result of the processing. Click on the drop-down preset list and choose a preset that is suited to the track (for example, “Soft knee compression”).
For detailed info on how to use the compressor, right-click on the plug-in’s logo and select Help from the popup menu.